An Emotional 1989: A comprehensive look at Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion and Taylor Swift’s 1989

If you’ve hung around here for any amount of time at all you know that I love pop music almost as much as I love sad bastard music. If you’ve run into me at any point over the last month or so and the topic of pop music has come up I’ve very likely gone on and on about how great the new Carly Rae Jepsen album is (and how it might be better than 1989). My good friend Courtney Allen heard me talk about such things, but took it all a step farther (and in a more awesome direction, obviously) and wrote down her feelings about how E*MO*TION and 1989 compare. Here are those thoughts she was nice enough to write down and share. You will very much enjoy them.

A few weeks ago, Carly Rae Jepsen quietly released her sophomore album, Emotion. It immediately earned comparisons to Taylor Swift’s 1989, and for those paying attention, it caused several arguments as to whether it was better than 1989. Both 80s inspired pop albums, it’s easy to see where this conversation got started.

Overall, both albums touch on similar themes and emotions. Where they contrast tends to come in terms of perspective, Swift often approaches these stories of love and lust from the past, with a jaded view of what happened. Jepsen looks at them in the moment, with a seemingly more optimistic tone.  We’ll take a look at a few of their songs side by side:

Blank Space vs. Black Heart

Both upbeat tracks about a failed romance, Swift and Jepsen approach their ‘over it’ vibe differently. “In your black heart is where you’ll find me, cutting through the cracks of the concrete,” Jepsen sings on the chorus. Swift chimes in with a crooked grin, “you can tell me when it’s over, if the high was worth the pain.” Swift looks at love as a game, whereas Jepsen looks at it as a show.

Style vs. Run Away With Me

Both songs mention headlights, streetlights and driving all night but offer two different takes on the story. Swift’s take hits on the spontaneity, but she seems a bit more cognizant of where this story is inevitably headed. Meanwhile Jepsen is up for the spontaneous but is excited about falling for someone, and doing so quickly.

Wildest Dreams vs. Gimmie Love

The two dreamiest songs on both albums, these tracks hit on bittersweet love lost. Both admit to potentially wanting too much, but also speak to keeping that person in mind long after they’re worthy of the holding onto the memories.

Out of the Woods vs. When I Needed You

These two songs  approach what each party did wrong, or what they failed to notice from the beginning. Swift’s take focuses on thoughts, “looking at it now, it all seemed so simple.” The only breakup song on Emotion, Jepsen utilizes dreams, “what if we could go back, we could take the words back, you could take my love back.”

You Are In Love vs. Favourite Colour

Two sugary sweet ballads, both tracks focus being in love. Swift focuses on the senses, “you can hear it in the silence, you can see it with the lights out.” And Jepsen focuses on closeness, “When I am close to you, I blend into, my favorite colour.”

It’s interesting that for two 80s inspired dance albums, neither Swift nor Jepsen really manage to sell themselves as partying, club-goers. Jepsen has a few songs on her album that try to make it work. Maybe it’s her call-me-maybe history and maybe it’s her Rainbow-Bright-inspired album cover. But I’m not buying it. And even though I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance is one of the best dance tracks on the album, I can’t imagine a world where Jepsen is brushing off Tino and ‘Hey Joe’ at the club. Taylor has never really wandered into this realm, but she also doesn’t need to be quite as obvious to make her music a total upbeat dance jam.

Both albums have a few outliers. Swift’s switches between upbeat revenge anthems and confident dance tracks to wispy love songs to moody ballads. But Jepsen’s album on a whole is much more comprehensive.

The real difference, and where Swift vastly outperforms Jepsen, is in songwriting and storytelling. Jepsens’ work never really goes deeper than surface level. Swift excels at the stories behind the songs with her lyrics telling of getting stitches in the hospital room, headlights shining through her bedroom window and houseplants that were collateral damage in a breakup. Jepsen’s choruses stay fairly vague, and the verses don’t go into much more detail either.

Overall, if we’re choosing the most comprehensive 80s pop dance album it’s clearly Jepsen’s Emotion. But it’s hard to say Swift lost at a game she never entered as I don’t believe both set out with the same goal in mind. For the stronger songwriter, the winner will always be Swift. The losers? Those who are embarrassed to listen to either.

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